Sunday, June 21, 2009

Tom Swift -Earliest Dust jackets

Clearly the Tom Swift Series was one of the most popular juvenile series ever published. Along with the Rover Boys, Grosset and Dunlap had two giant sellers in the early days of the twentieth century.

The first 5 books in the Tom Swift Series were published in 1910 as a "breeder set". Another five came in 1911 and yet another five in 1912. Thereafter one new book was published per year until in 1935 when volume #38 Tom Swift and His Planet Stone was published.

The familiar quadrant cover was used until it was replaced with a blind stamped orange cloth cover in 1932/1933 during the early print run of "the Giant Magnet". There were three basic dust jacket formats. Quadrant, duotoneand full color. Today I am going to address the quadrant dust jackets.

As with most all series books the earliest formats had dust jackets which matched the cover of the book. The Tom Swift Series was no exception to this rule.

In the first year of production books #1-5 had the earliest dust jacket. red line drawn on a brownish background without any other colors. The dust jacket reverse only listed the first five titles-indicating its 1910 publication. This jacket was used for one year

The second dust jacket lists 10 titles on the reverse (indicating a 1911 date). It has dark green coloration in addition to the red on a brown paper dust jacket.

The third and final quadrant dust jacket is the same as the second only on a white paper dust jacket. This one lists anywhere from 15 titles (1912 book) to 20 titles (1917 book). After this quadrant dust jacket ran its course, the duotones were put into production.

The rarest Tom Swift dust jacketed book can be argued about. Some say it is the First format quadrant cloth Giant Magnet. Other say it is not a jacketed book at all but the Keds paperback reprints (see a future blog entry), in my mind it is a 1910 dust jacketed book.


  1. I would have to agree 100% with your statement.

    The 1910 red ink quad dustjacket is definitely a highly rare item. In fact, most collectors have never seen one before. Even the general Tom Swift collectors -- without having the benefit of seeing one -- confuse them with the later white quadrant dustjackets.

  2. The paper for the first two quadrant jacket formats (1910, 1911) were very fragile because they did not use a coated paper stock. Hence, they are prone to chipping and pieces missing.

    The color of the paper is similar to that used for a brown paper bag. I have Airship in a nice 1911 jacket but no example of a 1910 jacket yet.

    The latest quadrant jacket seen is #20, Land of Wonders. Collectors with a bona fide quadrant jacket for a G&D edition of #21 War Tank should step forward with photos and details.

    The duotone or 2-color jackets had a relatively short run from volume 21-26 with reprints of the earlier titles. There were paper shortages and economic hardships during WWI which did not help sales.

    The prices of G&D books also went up to account for higher materials costs. Rover Boys books rose from 60¢ to 75¢ and Tom Swift books went from 40¢ to 50¢--the first time that Syndicate books actually sold at the mythical figure which is associated with Stratemeyer in error-prone articles like "For It Was Indeed He" in Fortune Magazine (Apr 1934) where he was called "the Father of the Fifty Center" because that was the "popular" price at which series books from G&D sold at that time.

    Some are led to believe that Stratemeyer introduced the 50¢ price when he founded his Syndicate in 1905. By the early 1910s his books sold for almost any price other than 50¢. The Musket Boys (C&L) sold for $1.00 while the Webster series sold for 35¢. In pricing books it was important to avoid the kind of low pricing associated with "trashy" dime novels and nickel libraries which were very common in thick paperback form during this period.

    James Keeline